In brief

In brief

  • The next wave of technology disruption will drive the future of retail—and retailers need to start preparing for it now.
  • The trends span from virtual to physical, across humans and machines, and offer opportunities for retailers through innovation and strong execution.
  • With so much change in retail, now is the time to understand how emerging technologies are a critical engine for future growth and competitiveness.
  • In this decade, ambitious retail enterprises will shape new physical and digital realities, and transform their businesses.

Welcome to the “Metaverse Continuum”

The Metaverse Continuum is a spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities and business models poised to revolutionize life and enterprises in the next decade.

It applies across all areas of a business enterprise, from consumers to employees, from real to virtual, and from cloud and artificial intelligence to extended reality, blockchain, digital twins, edge technologies and beyond. As the next evolution of the Internet, the metaverse will be a continuum of rapidly emerging capabilities, use cases, technologies and experiences.

The Metaverse Continuum will transform how retailers interact with customers, how work is done, what products and services companies offer, how they make and distribute them, and how they operate their organizations.

This way of life seems futuristic today, but the metaverse continuum is on its way here.

A new era of metaverse retail shopping

Just like the beginning of the digital era, retailers that accelerate through this wave of technology disruption will likely be those who are better positioned for the future. The good news is that retailers have more notice of what's to come and can start investing and experimenting today.

Four retail industry trends 

In the Retail Technology Vision 2022 report, we explore how today’s technology innovations are becoming the building blocks of our collective future. These four trends investigate the entire continuum, from the virtual to the physical, across humans and machines alike, identifying where ambitious retailers can find rich opportunities by uprooting themselves from today and planting themselves firmly in the future.

Trend 1: WebMe

WebMe explores how the internet is being reimagined—customers will no longer view digital content, they will live it. Learn more.

Trend 2: The Programmable World

The Programmable World tracks how technology is being threaded through our physical environments in increasingly sophisticated ways. Learn more.

Trend 3: The Unreal

The Unreal explores how our environments and businesses are increasingly filled with machines that are passably human. Learn more.

Trend 4: Computing the Impossible

Computing the Impossible explores how the new class of high performance computing power will allow retailers to tackle their grand challenges. Learn more.

View All

WebMe—Putting the me in metaverse

WebMe explores how the internet is being reimagined. Solutions that saved retail during the pandemic were built for the internet as it is today. Thanks to metaverse and Web 3 innovations, the entire online footprint that retailers have developed over the last decade will need to be reimagined. Customers will no longer view digital content. They will live it.

For retailers, stepping into the metaverse can help expand addressable markets and create new revenue streams. The ability to create incredibly different virtual spaces is one of the opportunities. These are not just virtual stores, they are augmented spaces where customers can explore and experience products in ways that engage the senses, embody the brand and transport people to new realities.


of consumers agree more of their life and livelihood is moving into digital spaces.

The Programmable World—Our planet, personalized

The Programmable World tracks how technology is being threaded through our physical environments in increasingly sophisticated ways. It projects how the convergence of 5G, ambient computing, augmented reality, smart materials and more are paving the way for businesses to reshape how they interact with the physical world. As technology becomes part of the fabric of our environment, it allows us to treat our environment more like technology—unlocking an unprecedented fidelity of control, automation, and personalization.

The different layers of the programmable world, which each leverage different technologies, will give retailers new ways to augment, customize, automate, alter and otherwise “program” our physical environments—and they will introduce an entirely new competitive landscape for retailers.

Ninety percent of retail executives say that leading organizations will push the boundaries of the virtual world to make it more real, increasing the need for persistence and seamless navigation between the digital and physical worlds.

The Unreal—Making synthetic, authentic

The Unreal is a trend where our environments and businesses are increasingly filled with machines that are passably human. As retailers push AI to be more collaborative, helpful and insightful—and as it is used in more creative ways—the lines between what’s real and what isn’t will blur, raising complex questions.

A new social contract must be set between retailers and customers that gives retailers permission to use synthetic data. These ethical questions will likely have different answers in different segments. Will consumers accept the unreal when they buy clothes? Or when they visit a pharmacy? The time for retailers to start building trust is now. It will take a consistent approach and governance for ensuring the authenticity and provenance of digital content.


of retail executives agree that their organizations are committed to authenticating the origin of their data and genuine use of AI.

Computing the Impossible—New machines, new realities

We are on the precipice of resetting the boundaries of traditional industries as we begin Computing the Impossible. The outer limit of what is computationally possible is being disrupted as a new class of machines emerges.

The world of computational theory and hardware is not something many non-technical retail executives think about often—but they can’t afford to be caught unaware. This transformation is not happening tomorrow, but development is well underway, and each new benchmark means being one step closer to breakthroughs in retail operations and innovation. That’s why retail leaders need front row seats to the quantum era.


of retail executives say quantum computing will have a breakthrough or transformative impact on their organizations in the future.

Now is the time to shape the future of retail technology

Retailers are at a unique precipice in time. Not because there are new technologies to master, but rather that competing in this next decade will require more than just increasing technology and innovation skills. It will require a truly competitive vision—both for what these future retail worlds can look like, what consumers will want from them—and what the business will likely need to succeed in them. Read the Retail Tech Vision report.

Jill Standish

Senior Managing Director – Global Lead, Retail

Gautham Reddy

Managing Director & Global Retail Technology Lead


Store of Tomorrow
Unleash the power of AI in retail
Tech Vision 2022: Meet me in the Metaverse

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